Healthy-left, unhealthy-right: Can displaying healthy items to the left (versus right) of unhealthy items nudge healthier choices?

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Abstract

Would laterally displaying a healthy item to the left versus right of an unhealthy item influence choice and consumption? The results of seven studies demonstrate that displaying healthy items to the left (vs. right) of unhealthy items enhances preference for the healthy options. In addition, consumption volume of a healthy item (visà-vis an unhealthy item) is higher when it is placed to the left (vs. right) of the unhealthy item. We propose that a "healthy-left, unhealthy-right" (vs. healthy-right, unhealthy- left) lateral display pattern is congruent with consumers' mental organization of food items varying in healthfulness, which enhances ease of processing and in turn enhances self-control, thereby leading to a relatively higher likelihood of choosing healthy options. While prior studies have examined the role of several factors in influencing choices between healthy and unhealthy options, the present research is the first to demonstrate the effects of lateral display positions of healthy/unhealthy options on choice and healthful consumption. The findings of our research have important implications for designing retail food displays and restaurant menus as well as for conducting research studies involving healthy and unhealthy food displays.

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Romero, M., & Biswas, D. (2016). Healthy-left, unhealthy-right: Can displaying healthy items to the left (versus right) of unhealthy items nudge healthier choices? Journal of Consumer Research, 43(1), 103–112. https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucw008

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